hat's the deal with CALS?
Staff Writer Andrew Jenks addressed many of the problem areas in the Department of Defense's CALS program, but some of the strident headlines go a bit overboard. For example: "DoD's CALS Lacks Oversight, Out of Control." I don't believe it's out of control and certainly, the International Commercialized CALS program does not warrant the front page headline, "CALS Faces the Music of Disaster." That's unworthy of your fine publication.
And on page 15, he writes: "Other examples of chaos abound... A program to create CALS Shared Resource Centers has been established... but for what, exactly, is not clear." Congress mandated the CSRCs and it seems to me that they are doing a fine job bringing the benefits of CALS to the commercial sector -- which is where we can use them.
Finally, to ask the DUSD how much has been spent on CALS and what have been the cost benefits is reaching a bit high for an answer Jenks knows he's not going to get from a newcomer. First of all, not all CALS benefits are totally quantifiable in dollars; second, there is a growing list of benefits directly ascribable to CALS or CALS-like projects; and third, most of the allocation from Congress was for the coordinated management of automation projects, not for anything called CALS, per se.
John Larry Baer
International Management & Engineering Consultants
The C-17 transport aircraft was contracted prior to the CALS efforts that started in 1985 when the Department of Defense and industry coined the CALS acronym. By the late 1980s, studies were underway to examine cost projections and anticipated savings for McDonnell Douglas and the Air Force. Providing digital delivery of data rather than paper as specified in the contract, was under consideration mainly in the area of logistics support.
There has never been a contract requirement to deliver drawings in a digital CALS format, nor was there a contract line item number that suggested $850,000 had been allocated for such an effort.
The C-17, now in its production phase, will undoubtedly include specific CALS retrofits through contract change proposals. Future lot buys of the C-17 will include some digital data delivery capabilities, possibly in the areas of technical manual updates, modifications of engineering drawings on a go-forward basis, and information management for scheduling, quality assurance documentation and configuration management. CALS retrofit plans for the C-17 are being proposed and pilot studies in isolated functional areas are underway. Just how quickly the program can convert from paper to digital formats depends on many factors independent of CALS such as congressional funding, return on investment and customer's information infrastructure capability to receive data.
The future costs for CALS efforts appear to have peaked and are most likely on the way down, due in part to the burgeoning technology that allows program software conversions in half the time at half the cost and the competitiveness in the computer industry. The savings can and have been documented despite the reluctance to publish figures. The savings will most definitely be long-term.
Looking at CALS efforts, we will find the savings; taking a business approach and examining what process improvements can be made prior to automating the process, with decision making based on good business practices will be the ultimate motivating factor for moving into a profitable information management environment. Call it CALS or XYZ, but the doomsday editors would do well to examine all the facts and credibility of their sources before crying "wolf" or citing inaccurate information on how programs like the C-17 are handling CALS.
McDonnell Douglas Aerospace,
Long Beach, Calif.